Sure, people make important professional connections and work friendships all the time. But for firefighters, those relationships go deep enough to be called “the Brotherhood.” So when one of the members of the Brotherhood is killed in the line of duty, it hits all firefighters hard. That’s at the heart of the deep connection Wilton’s fire chief Ronald Kanterman feels for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF).
“When a guy loses his life in Texas, we all feel it. When a fireman gets killed anywhere—we get notices from all over the world—we feel it. The nature of the job, when you live together, eat together, laugh together and cry together, it’s a second family. It’s the ultimate teamwork. That brings people closer together,” Kanterman says.
The NFFF exists to not only remember America’s fallen firefighters, but it runs programs to assist the families and coworkers of firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty.
“It’s near and dear to every firefighter in the United States, including me,” Kanterman says.
Wilton’s chief has been a dedicated volunteer with the NFFF for 18 years. Seeing firefighter families mourn their lost loved ones keeps him motivated to continue that line of service.
“You see the emotion, the anguish, the tears. This is something that’s bigger than all of us.”
In addition to the way the foundation takes care of the families of firefighters killed in the line of duty, there’s something else that the NFFF does that has become important to Kanterman as well, which is working within the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths and injuries.
“Now they’re doing injury prevention. We have national programs that have been developed through the foundation, and I’ve had the privilege of sitting on some of those committees to help out, where we go to the fire stations and we tell the guys, ‘Your life is worth more than what you thought it is. Make good, informed decisions, train harder.’ I lecture on it and teach those classes,” he says.
Teaching other firefighters has become important to Kanterman. He’s currently an adjunct professor at the University of New Haven and an adjunct instructor at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD. As part of his involvement with the NFFF at the National Memorial to fallen firefighters, he has worked as chief of operations for the National Memorial Weekend for the past 13 years, and this year he will assume the role of deputy incident commander for the weekend.
Last week, Kanterman accepted a $4,000 donation to the NFFF from the Bergen County (NJ) Fire Chiefs Association. Fire chief Jack J. Murphy, a retired fire marshal and former deputy chief from Leonia, NJ came to the Wilton fire house to present the check to Kanterman along with Wilton’s deputy chief Mark Amatrudo. (Amatrudo is also involved with the NFFF as a member of the CT Statewide Honor Guard, which works with firefighters and families coping with the sudden loss of a firefighter.)
The Bergen County chiefs held a day of training in October 2015 to honor one much-respected fallen firefighter named Harvey Eisner, a former chief of the Tenafly, NJ Fire Department as well as the editor of Firehouse Magazine, who died suddenly last year. Eisner’s family hoped to continue his legacy of education and service to his community, and so the proceeds from the training day were earmarked for the NFFF.